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Israeli military findsflotilla killing justified

New York Times

TEL AVIV, Israel - An Israeli military investigation into its naval takeover of a Gaza-bound flotilla six weeks ago found that it was plagued by errors of planning, intelligence and coordination but that the killings of nine Turks on board were justified, according to an official summary of the findings released Monday.

Giora Eiland, a retired major general who led the probe, presented his classified findings to the military chief of staff; they were not released to the public. But a statement issued by the military said that the investigators faulted the military for not knowing who was on board one of the ships. A senior officer involved in the report said that at least 65 Turkish Islamic militants armed with metal sticks and knives were on the flotilla's main ship, and had vowed to fight any effort by the Israeli navy to board.

The scuffles that ensued led to Israeli commandos shooting the nine Turks, including one with Turkish-American citizenship.

The investigators praised the commandos who rappelled onto the main ship from helicopters, saying that they "operated properly, with professionalism, bravery and resourcefulness." They called the use of live fire justified. No dismissals were publicly recommended, but officers said some demotions or dismissals might occur.

The military's investigation, carried out by eight officers, did not deal with larger policy issues like the legality or appropriateness of Israel's blockade against Gaza or its takeover of the six-boat flotilla in international waters on May 31.

The goal of the flotilla was to challenge Israel's authority over what goes in and out of Gaza.

Eiland, a former national security adviser, said in his briefing that more ships might try to breach Israel's Gaza blockade, and so lessons from what happened on the Turkish flotilla were important.

In fact, a Libyan vessel arrived in the area of Crete on Monday, with its crew saying it was scheduled to reach Gaza on Wednesday. Israeli officials have vowed to prevent it from getting through.

Eiland's report finds that there was at least one gun on board because an Israeli soldier took a bullet in the knee that was not from an Israeli weapon. It also contends that Israeli soldiers most likely fired only after having been fired upon first.

Passengers aboard the flotilla have mostly told a very different story, with some witnesses accusing the commandos of shooting randomly as they came aboard.

CONVERSION BILL

Citizenship at stake

An Israeli parliamentary committee advanced a bill that could lead to conversions to Judaism performed by rabbis from the Reform and Conservative movements no longer being recognized in Israel. The bill could give the chief rabbinate, the religious authority in Israel run by ultra-Orthodox Jews, the power to decide which conversions are accepted, overturning an Israeli Supreme Court decision that ensures Jews converted by rabbis from all branches of Judaism are eligible for Israeli citizenship.

Washington Post

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